A Job Well Done…Would Your Work Rate A Stamp Of Excellence?

A Job Well Done…Would Your Work Rate A Stamp Of Excellence?

Old Hickory Factory Furniture StampA few years ago we had some beautiful wood furniture delivered to our home for our family room.  Affixed on the underside of our new chairs was a small stamp of the name of the company who built them.  My father-in-law was a master wood craftsman and built beautiful cabinets and furniture.  He once told me that it used to be common practice for fine furniture companies to brand a small imprint of the company’s logo in an inconspicuous place on their finished products.  This stamp not only represented excellence in workmanship, but also superior wood quality.  It had taken my husband and I a considerable amount of time to shop for our new family room furniture, so when I noticed the furniture company’s stamp on the things we’d purchased, I felt reassured that our efforts to find quality furniture to meet the needs of our home and family were not in vain!

My parents showed me the value of a job well done by their example, and did their best to help me cultivate a good work ethic, as well.  I’ve often wondered however, if I would approach some jobs differently if I was required to stamp my name on a completed task for everyone to see–and then let them decide if the caliber of my work was deserving of the stamp of excellence.

Taking Pride In A Job Well Done Often Creates Lifetime Treasures!

Antique wood working tools

My husband, Tom, learned the skills of making and restoring beautiful furniture when he helped his dad in his workshop while growing up.  One of the first things my husband and I did together after we got engaged was refurbish an old wood chest-of-drawers that had been in his childhood bedroom.  We used the dresser for a few years after we were married, then passed it on to our son; it’s still in his room today as a special reminder of my husband’s patient work and his ability to do a job well!  (He even left his unique stamp engraved on the furniture, just not necessarily in the way his mother approved of at the time it was done!)

Antique chest-of-drawers

Refinishing furniture.

Yes, that’s a “T” for Tom!   (My husband comes from a big family of nine children–he told me that when he was younger, this was his way of making his “mark on the world” amid the hectic routine of a large household!  My husband wanted to sand the “T” out, but I wanted to keep it as a reminder of his youth–I think it adds character!)  

Dove-tail construction

When my husband and I worked to refinish the dresser, I was educated on the superior quality of dove-tail construction–this is always something my husband checks even to this day when we’re looking at furniture!  Sadly, it’s becoming a bit of lost art!     

Antigue chest- of-drawers        Antique dresser

My husband later made a matching bookcase for our son’s room.


Other furniture treasures I have that deserve a stamp of excellence! 

wooden cradle

My husband and his father made this wooden cradle for me when I was expecting my oldest daughter, Malia.  I used it with all three of my children.  My two granddaughters, Makena and Marli have also used it.  I hope to share it with all of my grandchildren.

Makena Warburton 2008

Makena and Marli April 2012

My husband found an old oak table-top at a construction site and with his father’s help, he made these beautiful table legs to go with it.

Oak table

Many fun game nights have been enjoyed around this table!

Oak table

What I’m learning now…

As I look around my house, I see so many things that I know took someone a lot of time and effort to create.  The attention to detail on these items reflects a job well done!  sometimes I get a little sad when I realize that so many of the treasured pieces I have were done by family members and relatives in the past and are talents that you don’t see being done too much anymore.  What I’m learning now is that I will always cherish these items, but I also appreciate many things made by others today and the skill sets learned and acquired to take pride in a job well done–they are just as deserving of a stamp of excellence! 

Vintage tatting lace

What special items are in your home that you’ve acquired or made yourself that you know took a lot of work to make and reflect a job well done?



The Fruits Of Our Labors…Take Time To Enjoy Them!

The Fruits Of Our Labors…Don’t Forget To Take The Time To Enjoy Them 

Vintage lawn mowerOf all the things my parents taught me about cultivating a good work ethic, working in the yard and gardening are ones that I enjoy the most!  Even as a young girl, I looked forward each weekend to working in the flower beds while my dad mowed the lawn.  I liked going to the garden nurseries with my parents to help pick out the beautiful flowers and plants that gave a much needed burst of life and energy to a winter worn yard!  I’m also impressed that my parents seemed to listen to my input with genuine interest while picking out their plants.  I’m not sure I gave that much credence to my own children’s gardening ideas.  They did however, indulge my passion for yard work and were good to contribute their part to the upkeep and maintenance of our yard…if asked, they might suggest that they really didn’t have a choice!

yard work

(My youngest daughter had many opportunities to mow the lawn and help in the yard after her older sister and brother left home!  Mandi now lives in New York City in a small tenth floor apartment; she’s told me how she sometimes misses the days spent working in our yard!)  

My Grandma Mecham (my mom’s mom) was my most adept mentor as I grew up and first started developing my gardening skills.  My grandma had a calm demeanor and kindly taught me, even as a young energetic child, the art of planting vegetable seeds and flower start-ups.  Grandma MechamMy grandparents had a long, more narrow backyard, with a winding stone path that curved down the middle of their beautiful garden.  The garden’s artistic mix of vegetables and flowers became my own “secret garden”!  My mom often went to help my grandma with her gardening tasks so our family could reap some of the rewards at harvest time.  Countless hours were spent working together with my grandma in her garden, but one very distinct memory I have that left a lasting impression on me was that my grandma always took time after we were finished for the day, or before the sun went down, to sit on one of her garden benches or her front porch swing to enjoy little homemade treats with a tangy fruit drink.  She’d talk about all we’d accomplished and how beautiful everything looked.  Sometimes, even before she took her dirt-caked garden gloves off, she’d reach over and hug my shoulders and tell me what a wonderful day it had been.  It was hard not to be totally enchanted as I magically seemed to see things through my grandmother’s delighted view of the world!  Too often, I just run from one task to another and forget to take time to enjoy what I have done.


Long before it became such a trend, my grandma made beautiful planters out of unique items found in a storage shed.  All the more reason to take time and really enjoy the “fruits of our labors”!   

Enjoying Delicious Fruits Of Our Labors

rhubarb plantsAlthough my parents didn’t plant a big garden like my grandparents, they did grow rhubarb plants along the back fence of our yard.  When the plants were ready, my mom would ease the rhubarb gently out of the ground, then it was my job, along with some of my siblings, to cut the leafy tops off and rinse away any dirt left on the stalk.  I know I didn’t really appreciate the value of this rhubarb ritual at the time, but I have a transplant from my parent’s yard in my garden now.  One of my favorite desserts is made with rhubarb. rhubarb plants My thoughts are flooded with special memories each time I smell rhubarb cooking!  It’s something my whole family really enjoys and now many friends and neighbors do so as well, since we have shared our rhubarb cobbler at many neighborhood gatherings.  We serve it warm with vanilla bean ice cream.  Talk about literally enjoying the fruits of our labors!   (I wish I could say that all my gardening endeavors produced abundant crops, alas, that is not the case!) 

strawberry rhubarb cobbler

Rhubarb-Strawberry-Raspberry Cobbler

Biscuit Topper:

1 cup flour   2 tbsp. sugar   1/4 tsp. salt

Cut in 1/4 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Combine 1/4 cup milk and 1 slightly beaten egg.  Add all at once to dry ingredients, stirring just enough to moisten.  Set mixture aside.

Fruit Mixture:

sliced rhubarb

2 cups 1 inch cut rhubarb

2 cups sliced strawberries

2 cups fresh raspberries

Combine 1 cup sugar  2 tbsp. cornstarch 

 1/4 tsp. cinnamon  1 tbsp. water  1 tbsp. butter.  Bring to boil. Cook and stir for one minute.  Pour filling into 8 1/4 X 1 3/4 inch round baking dish (or comparable square dish).  Immediately spoon on biscuit topper in 6-8 mounds. 

Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  So good, you’re gonna love it! 

What I’m learning now is…

Just like the Dr. Seuss quote in this past entry, sometimes it takes getting a little older to recognize that you really are wiser and truly appreciate so many of the things that your parents taught you.  What I’m learning now is that although your children may not verbalize aloud that they are glad they’ve learned a few things from you, I think that deep down in their hearts, (maybe in a crevice that may never surface in our lifetime-ha!) they really are grateful that you helped them know how to work.  I just hope my kids are doing a better job at taking the time to “enjoy the fruits of their labors” more than I did when I was younger!

Please share any rhubarb recipes you love.  Also, any gardening tips that make the yard work process easier or how you stop to take a breath and “enjoy the fruits of your labors”!  


Spring Cleaning! Cultivating A Good Work Ethic!

Spring Cleaning–It’s A State of Mind

Cooking and Cleaning ImageI had a good laugh when I saw this phrase on the front of a greeting card when I was browsing Easter cards a few weeks ago!  The woman pictured definitely looks like a woman from my mother’s era, however, as a child I was convinced that all women at that time were born with the perpetual cleaning gene!  They also seemed to be diligent about carrying on their spring cleaning attributes into every other season of the year, as well.  As an observant and work induced child, I also realized that my mom not only seemed to really enjoy cooking and cleaning, she always looked really fabulous doing it!  In the fanciful memory of my childhood, I can’t recall my mom ever resembling my sweaty, grimy look after a day spent cleaning or working in my yard!

I have to admit that it did my heart good when I read in my mother’s journal recently that she often felt the burden of fulfilling the demands of the many roles placed on her as a wife and mother.  My mom’s response to these concerns however, was made with her usual upbeat candor!  “I’ve just had to rely on my long-established motto of putting my best effort into whatever jobs were at hand.”  My mother never seemed to shirk her duties as she helped our family learn to set a good standard in all areas of life, which most definitely included cooking and cleaning!  She established a routine that I remeber well…it’s best outlined in her own words.

“I developed a routine with the children that included teaching them various tasks, working with them on the tasks until they could work independently, then inspecting their finished work.  That way I could monitor how they learned the things I taught them.  Of course, their work had to be redone on more than one occasion.  The kids teased me about my “Eagle Eye” inspections.”

from the history of Merle Jorgensen

Eagle Eye work inspections It was a fun challenge for me to work hard at my jobs so I could pass the great “Eagle Eye” inspections of my mom!  The sense of accomplishment you feel when your “best effort” pleases your mother is really wonderful!  But it’s an even better feeling when you do your best just because that’s what you want to do!

Cultivating A Good Work Ethic Can Actually Be Fun

vintage cleaning bucket and mop

All joking aside, I appreciated the sense of camaraderie and fun that both my parents brought to the everyday workload of raising a family and keeping a household running smoothly.  My dad and mom tried to be very conscientious about dividing up the chores into do-able doses.  If certain jobs were completed without too much fuss, then we were rewarded; we could decide on a special treat or receive a monetary payment as a way to earn money to buy something special that we wanted.  Watching the energy that both my parents exhibited when working beside me, made it easier to put forth a better effort so I could keep pace with them.

One of my fondest and most vivid memories is how my dad was usually the first to jump up from the table when a meal was finished, and after gathering an arm full of dishes, he’d fill up the sink with sudsy water and throw out some dish towels to the rest of us. The lively discussions and wet towel flipping contests that ensued were family entertainment at it’s best!?  Later, when I was older and my parents had a dishwasher, my father still kept up this dish washing tradition, despite fervent and earnest pleadings to just load the dishwasher!

antique dish rack

(An interesting irony to the story above is that my husband grew up in a family of nine children and did his fair share of dish duty.  Much to our children’s dismay, he also enjoys the tradition of doing dishes together by hand.)

Cultivate A Good Work Ethic By Seeing Work From A Different Perspective!

farm life

I know whenever I get feeling a little downtrodden, especially this time of year, with a long spring cleaning list that I want to get done, I’m reminded of the many stories that my dad shared with me over the years about his parent’s life.  My father told me that in spite of the fairly grueling lifestyle, there was a congenial sense of community and a tremendous work ethic that was shared by all the farming families where his parents owned their farm land.  My Grandpa Jorgensen really enjoyed farming and once told my dad that the farm was his “health spa” because the work always kept him healthy and strong!  My dad joked that his father dug post holes and built a fence around his farm while the horses rested.  More importantly though, he detailed the duties of his mother:

“After my parents were married and I was a small child, my mother spent time at the farm.  During the summer she gardened and cooked and often baked bread for a number of the men who were single or who didn’t have their wives with them at their farms.”  

Vintage garden tools

Hearing these stories definitely puts a different spin on learning to appreciate the ability to cultivate a good work ethic, especially since we enjoy so many modern conveniences and often buy our bread at the store.  Yeah, our kids will roll their eyes at the stories about the hard times of previous generations, we did when our parents told them, and someday they’ll share their stories with their children; I would imagine they’ll get a similar response!

What I’m learning now is…

I’m so grateful that my parents taught me the importance of a good work ethic, as well as the importance of being willing to help others.  What I’m learning now is that like so many things in life, learning how to work depends largely on a “can do” attitude.  I watch my children now as they work hard to establish their families, homes and careers, and I’m so impressed with all they are accomplishing.  It’s also a thrill to watch my cute granddaughters get excited to pitch in and help.  I tell my daughter it’s because they want to share in all the “fun”!

april and mayWhat good work ethics have served you best in your life?  I’d love to hear how you teach your children good work habits.